So, I’m back from a week in Japan, except my mind still thinks I’m on the other side of the planet, refusing to let me sleep at the usual time. I was over there just long enough to almost get adapted to their time zone, only to turn around and come right back.

The outbound flight was roughly 14 hours. I left in the late morning on Saturday and got into Narita on Sunday afternoon. During the flight I read the first 450 pages or so of The Outsider, King’s forthcoming novel. Slept a little, but not a lot. Took the Narita Express in to Shinjuku, where I spent the night in a little hotel that was apparently on the edge of one of Tokyo’s red light districts. It’s hard to tell. There’s no shortage of sex parlors in that city. Monday was a national holiday, so I spent the day wandering around until it was time to head out to the western side of the city, where I spent the next three days in meetings.

It was cold over there. Below freezing at night and barely above in the day time. I saw the remnants of their recent snowfall on some streets. We were entertained by our hosts one evening at a Korean Shabu-Shabu restaurant. You get a pan with two different kinds of boiling liquid (one mostly flavorless, the other sesame) and racks of very thinly sliced meats (we got marbled beef and pork, thankfully none of the tongue that seems to be popular at these places) that you cook in the boiling liquid. Vegetables, too, so that ultimately you end up making a kind of brothy soup.

I knew from my daughter that Star Trek Discovery, the new series set before the original Star Trek, which is only available in the US if you pay to subscribe to CBS’s online service, is free on Netflix, so I binged through the entire season, often at 3 am when I was wide awake due to the time change. The final episode of the season dropped a few days before I left, so I was able to see the whole thing.

It’s an interesting show. Much, much harder on its main characters than any of the other series. There’s a lot of duplicity. You never know who to trust, nor who is going to survive. Main characters get killed. Main characters commit treason. Main characters cause galactic wars. My biggest problem with the show was in wrapping my head around the technology. Because film has progressed so much since the original series, everything looks much more modern than it did, but some tech was used in ways that Captain Kirk and his team never did. There was a fair amount of teleporting within the ship, for example, and I don’t remember ever seeing that on TOS or TNG. The computer and one character have a debate about the ethics of her instructions, which seemed more advanced than the older shows. In some ways, the show felt more like Doctor Who than Star Trek. But I liked it and look forward to seeing where it goes in season 2. I just hope I don’t have to go all the way to Japan to see it.

At the end of meetings on the third day, I relocated to the hotel airport, and what a pleasant surprise that was. I got upgraded to a junior suite for free (huge, massive, compared to most Japanese hotels), got free drink and meal discount coupons, and they let me check out late, which was good because my flight was late in the afternoon. On the eleven hour flight back (gotta love those shorter return journeys), I watched videos rather than read, and slept a fair amount. I watched War for the Planet of the Apes, which I’ve been trying to get to for a while. I’ve been enjoying these reimagined films, and like seeing all the places where they call back to the original films, in this case mostly Battle for the Planet of the Apes. All the little echoes from that earlier film. Then I watched most of Season 1 of Veep, which I’ve never seen before. Obviously satire, but it demonstrates how impotent the role of the Vice President can be…until it isn’t.

Which segues into the movie we saw last weekend after I got home: LBJ, starring Woody Harrelson as Lyndon Johnson, directed by Rob Reiner. Who would ever have imagined casting Woody as Johnson, but it was a good choice and it was probably Harrelson’s best performance ever. He disappears into the part, mostly. I confess I didn’t know that much about LBJ’s presidency, not even what his legacy was, so I found the film interesting from that perspective. They only skimmed over some of his more colorful aspects (his habit of consulting with his staff while sitting on the toilet with the door open) and didn’t get into the Vietnam war issues. It focuses mostly on the JFK assassination and Johnson’s decision to embrace Kennedy’s initiatives and see them through. Decent film.

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